Without a place to call your own, at least not yet, you have to work extra to protect the business you are building. You are responsible for maintaining a sense of privacy among your teammates and for your data.
After all, there are tales of ideas getting copied and workers jumping fences. It is not always rosy for startups. But if you truly believe you will flourish in a co-working space, there are ways to keep your privacy without coming off as distrustful.
Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said that “word of mouth is 10 times more effective than traditional advertising.” So, rely more on social ties than ads. Ask your colleagues and peers for their recommendations. Talk to someone who has shared space with other small, fast-growing enterprises. Find out how that person protected company privacy and at what cost.
Sometimes, however, people’s circumstances might be isolated cases. Or they had different priorities when they started looking for a co-working space. So it also pays to get the opinion of experts. From Silicon Valley to Shoreditch, organizations exist to help you find the right office type. Some understand the needs of freelancers and startups better than others. Others can even connect you with accelerators and incubators.
Instill a strong sense of accountability in your employees. Although collaboration and networking are typical co-working space fanfare, they are not avenues for disclosing pertinent details about a project. Let the limits of sharing be clear with all of your teammates.
The limits extend to each member locking their laptops when they leave the desk and keeping confidential documents away from public view. These are not signs of paranoia. Practicality dictates that you do these for the company. And your team must follow accordingly.
This step also builds a sense of ownership in the employees. Who says you can’t do that within co-working territory?
Invest in Technology
Prioritize data security. You’d want your place manager to be strict about it. Ask him or her about the security features of their WiFi network. Then add several layers of protection to your online data. Make it a bit hard for strangers to hack you or your employees’ laptops when you’re away from them. For that matter, do not ever leave a USB stick lying around.
If you can, invest in encryption software. Sync data with a cloud storage service. Prevent the loss of files as you hop from one desk to another. In short, design a framework for everything security-related. Only then should you let your guard down for other things such as networking in the noisy room.
Track Your Time
It may not seem straightforward, but tracking the time you spent in a co-working space can help you protect your privacy. If you spend more time working than socializing, you’ll get more done. At the same time, that reduces your encounters away from your desk. Think about being the first line of defense against data thieves.
As an addendum, if networking is taking more of your attention, it’s probably time to reassess your habits.
Protect Your Intellectual Property
You don’t want to be the person who killed the spirit of collaboration in your chosen hub. Plus, enthusiasm in the place can be contagious. Somebody might invite you to give your two cents on entrepreneurial matters. These situations come with the chance to over-share.
To put your team’s minds at ease, you can take concrete steps to protect your ideas. Assign intellectual property—copyrights, patents, trade secrets—to the company.
If it’s within the bounds of your relationship, you can potentially ask the other party to sign a non-disclosure agreement. But there is no guarantee that they will agree. As mentioned earlier, keeping quiet about the main project details is still the best and most organic way to go.
Protecting your privacy from outsiders can be challenging. But it can be done without showing distrust to others. The key is to create checks and balances for the whole team. That way, you can stop worrying and start having fun. Enjoy your time with other entrepreneurs. Learn from them. And give them the kind of respect you expect from them.